April 13, 2009


Hamas Comes Out of Hiding (PAUL McGEOUGH, 4/13/09, NY Times)

When I talked with Mr. Mishal in 2007, I was interviewing him for my book on an attempted assassination in the streets of Amman, Jordan, in September 1997. Then a midlevel operative in Hamas, Mr. Mishal was the intended victim. The killers were Mossad agents, dispatched by Benjamin Netanyahu, then Israel’s prime minister.

In the intervening decade, the circle of the Middle East crisis has made a full turn. Both men are still very much alive. Khalid Mishal has moved to the top of Hamas, and Benjamin Netanyahu is set to begin his second term as prime minister.

In the aftermath of the Gaza war, a resurgent Mr. Netanyahu faces an unbowed Hamas — thanks in no small part to the Mossad’s bungling of the attempt to eliminate Mr. Mishal, which at the time served to reinvigorate Hamas as much as it did to humiliate the Israeli government. [...]

Pressed on policy changes that Hamas might make as a gesture to any new order, Mr. Mishal argued that the organization has already shifted on several key points: “Hamas has already changed — we accepted the national accords for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and we took part in the 2006 Palestinian elections.”

On the crucial question of rewriting the Hamas charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, he was unbending: “Not a chance.” Khalid Mishal is not Yasir Arafat — he is not looking for a Nobel Peace Prize. Among the Hamas articles of faith is a belief that in renouncing violence and in recognizing Israel’s right to exist in 1993, Mr. Arafat sinned against his people. (Nonetheless, others to whom he speaks have told me that Mr. Mishal has said that “when the time comes,” Hamas will make some of the moves demanded of it by the West.)

Curiously, amid rising calls from politicians and policy makers around the world for Hamas to be given a seat at the Middle East negotiating table, Mr. Mishal made clear that he was willing to bide his time. His message is, “Watch what we do, not what we say.”

While it is impossible for many in the West to grasp the calculus in the Hamas strategy of war and terror, the movement has demonstrated that it is disciplined in holding its fire, as it did in the summer and fall of 2008. Likewise, it has proved itself capable of negotiating with Israel — albeit through third parties.

Over the long term, Hamas accepts the concept of two states in the Levant, which arguably puts Mr. Mishal’s terrorist movement closer to Washington than Netanyahu is — he now proposes only “economic peace” between Jews and Palestinians.

When you focus on boilerplate you give the party you're negotiating with an item of value which they can trade at no cost to themself but some to you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 13, 2009 7:11 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus